The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bangla shock for election observer

Jan. 11: The special observer of the Election Commission for South Dinajpur, Sahajananda Sharma, was in for a shock today. He had never thought that he would encounter Bangladeshis working in their country, but residing and exercising their franchise in India.

After his arrival in Balurghat yesterday, Sharma had received complaints from Debashis Majumdar, the vice-president of South Dinajpur Trinamul Congress. He followed it up with a visit to the house of Sujit Sarkar, a resident of Ward 1 of the town.

There he met Sarkar's wife Tripti whose husband, neighbours alleged, was a teacher in a government school ' Saraswatipur Primary School ' in Bangladesh. Sarkar, according to Trinamul allegations, is also a resident of Shibganj in Nowgaon district of Bangladesh.

'My husband comes and goes as he likes. I don't know much about his whereabouts but we have our names on the voters' list here and we also have ration cards. I myself have two voter identity cards with two serial numbers,' Tripti told a shocked Sharma, who instructed block development officer Adhir Biswas to seize one of them.

Next on Sharma's agenda was to find out whether Shamu Murmu, whose name featured on the list of deceased voters submitted by the Congress, actually existed. He not only found out that Murmu was long dead, but was also told by one Sripada Sarkar, 45, that he had 'come away' from Bangladesh 20 years ago. 'And now all three of us ' me, my wife and daughter ' have voter identity cards.'

Sharma, however, did not seize any of Sripada's cards.

'I will inform the commission which will take necessary action. I will also tell the district magistrate what to do. But I have seized all duplicate ones,' said Sharma.

Political leaders of South Dinajpur were uniform in their reaction. All of them wanted non-existent and false voters to be purged from the electoral rolls.

In Cooch Behar, special observer Manoj Kumar Singh received a complaint from the Trinamul Congress against the use of the 'government machinery' by the CPM during the polls. District president of the party Rabindranath Ghosh has also levelled charges against Left parties of harbouring criminals in their ranks.

'I have requested the observer that the Election Commission should not announce the date of the polls unless the voters' lists in all the nine Cooch Behar constituencies are 100 per cent correct and each voter is given a photo-identity card,' Ghosh said.

Devendra Singh, the observer in Malda, expressed surprise at the low percentage of voters. He asked district magistrate Abhijit Chowdhury to find out why a district with a population of over 330,000 had only 49 per cent voters enlisted.

Reacting to this observation, Congress and Trinamul Congress leaders like Gautam Chakrabarty and Krishnendu Chowdhury alleged that the CPM was using the administration to prevent voters from enrolling themselves.

The CPM district secretary, Jiban Moitra, rubbished the charges and said the voters themselves could not produce proper identification.

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